Watching the BBC’s European Election result coverage was like watching an election in a particularly cheap science fiction movie set in the far future (One of those ones you see on the Sci Fi channel that stars your man who use to play Superman with Teri Hatcher. Hey, it was either that or gay soft-porn. Don’t knock it. Guy’s gotta eat.) It just didn’t ring true, and it certainly didn’t feel believable.
And yet, the European Parliament actually matters. No, really. I’m not just saying that like one of those “Every vote matters!” people who earnestly despair when people don’t vote. It actually controls money and passes laws that make businesspeople fill their pants. Put it this way, if Microsoft or Nokia or Airbus could actually buy MEPs (Go on, make your bribery quip here………got that out of your system? I’ll continue.) they would, because the parliament actually makes decisions that effect business and consumers to the tune of billions.
Then, of course, there is the weird paradox at the heart of every EU debate. People go on about the EU not being democratic and yet most of them don’t bother their arse to vote for the one directly democratic bit. What’s the answer? People want democracy sure, but it needs to be simply more exciting to be worth voting for. It also shows that despite all the guff, people don’t really think it is that undemocratic. Voting to move the group lines slightly in the hemicycle is just not interesting enough, and is simply far too subtle to bother the modern voter.
Should we abolish it? It would be a pity, but you really have to ask at what level does turnout have to fall before the parliament loses its legitimacy? Or more to the point, if the governments went to abolish it, would anyone not paid by the parliament, a member of it, or an aspiring member of it really complain?
Maybe we should learn a lesson from the United States. Scrap the parliament and replace with a senate of say, two directly elected members for each state, voting using the double majority system in the Lisbon Treaty. That way, 54 senators would be very powerful, well known people, and would surely make it more likely that voters would choose very carefully who they sent to Strasbourg?